Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hobby or Career?

Do you fondly recall a time when you wrote just for writing sake? There were no deadlines, no marketing strategy, and no intended audience. You wrote whenever you felt like it with no discipline, writing whatever moved you whether it was poetry, short stories, plays, or novels that may never be published. Those were the days when you wrote as a hobby, without bounds and the restrictions of genre descriptions and publishers’ guidelines. And you couldn’t wait after that long day of work, or school or whatever your daytime occupation was to end, to get to that computer/typewriter and begin putting your story to paper.

Now you write, with a specific audience in mind. You are mindful of the guidelines of your genre, your intended publisher. You are changing the stories based on what you think the readers would like. You are writing a masterpiece to sell. And you are ever mindful of your deadlines. You are writing what you think will get rave reviews, will sell well and generate a substantial income, or at least some buzz for your next masterpiece.

That’s the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career.

I have been writing since I was six or seven, beginning with a reiterative and very melodic rhyming poem. Since then I’ve written poetry, short stories, some specific to the culture and dialect of the country of my birth, plays, and novels. My first full length novel written at fifteen was and will never be published (I lost the manuscript a long time ago). It was a YA romance written in the same vein as the Sweet Dreams or the Sweet Valley high romance. I recall the joy I had writing it.

My first novel as an adult dealt with a rather touchy issue. When I considered publishing it, I had my baby sister, an avid romance reader, read it. She told me it would never fly with romance readers because they seek a happily ever after. I tried publishing it none the less, and the rejections were endless. Then I wrote “A Marriage of Convenience” bringing it more mainstream with a multicultural twist. It sold within a year of writing and required quite a bit of editing. My novella, “From SKB with Love” part of the “Holiday Brides" anthology due out today, required much less editing. I now have a better idea what publishers are looking for.

So guess what? Now that I have a WIP, I find myself making decisions about scenes and characters based on what I think readers would like, publishers would like, and being bound by the rigid boundaries of the genre. I now try to pace myself, writing a certain number of words or chapters a week. Setting personal deadlines to be done with it and editing within a certain time frame. I read the reviews of my debut publication and try to see what worked and what didn’t. I read reader reviews of other authors works to learn from them. Why? I am now pursuing writing as a career.

That’s the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career.

As a hobby you have complete freedom to write whatever you like, whenever you like and however you like. As a career, you are restricted by what will sell both to publishers and to readers. Even if you take the avenue of self-publishing, you are still bound by readers’ expectations. Your livelihood depends on it.

Which one is better, writing as a hobby or as a career? While seeing my name on the cover of a book in the bookstore gives me an unimaginable thrill and sense of accomplishment, I still find the freedom of writing as a hobby more exhilarating.

For some writers it’s not mutually exclusive. Our hobby (writing) is a second career.
What about you? Which do you prefer: writing as a hobby or a career?


Bluestocking Mum said...

Great blog! Alas, I'm still unpublished so it's still very much a hobby. And interestingly I hear some of the stories - for example the pressure on accomplished writers to keep producing or for freelancers to write and sell articles and I am grateful that I can enjoy it.

But that doesn't stop me writing my novel and short stories for specific audiences!...and waking up and writing at 4am in the morning!

I write because I can't not write (pardon the double negative.)

warm wishes

Genella deGrey said...

What a thought-provoking post, Jewel!

Because I'm not supported financially by my writing (yet), I have to have a 9 to 5. So all the deadlines, marketing strategies, etc., I do for someone else.

I long for the days when the deadlines, marketing strategies, etc., are MINE!


Liane Spicer said...

I do miss the freedom of writing as a hobby - but it's great to be published!

Congrats on your new release, Jewel!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks for the compliment Bluestocking Mum. Hang in there and keep writing and attempting to publish, it will happen one day. G, I too have a 9-5 (more like 9 to whenever since I don't have set hours). Thanks Liane. I'm hoping Holiday Brides does well.